JJHS Thespians Celebrate Diversity with Honk Jr. Musical

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The highly esteemed Jenison Public Schools Theatre program is back again with a story that will warm your heart on the coldest of winter days!

Honk! JR. is a celebration of being different that is sure to delight audiences of all ages with its wit, charm and deeply moving message. The Jenison Junior High School cast, crew, and production team have worked extensively creating an amazing production and are thrilled to share this timeless story with you.


The story you will see presented on stage has endured and evolved since the original published in the 19th century, but has remained as endearing as when it was first read and enjoyed in Denmark.  It continues to be relevant, as its themes are those of growth, understanding, and acceptance.  

Most of us can relate and have probably felt like the Ugly duckling at one point or another. Comparing ourselves to those around us, wondering why we couldn’t be more talented or more admired. Perhaps, wishing we could change something about our unique selves in order to better “fit in” with the world around us. Some may even have experienced very ugly circumstances because of our differences. 

Performances will take place at the Jenison Center for the Arts

Evening | January 23 and 24 | 7:00pm

Matinees | January 25 and 26 | 3:00pm

Tickets | $12 adults | $8 Senior Citizens | $6 Students under age 18 


I promise, you and your family will be filled with joy and pride as the main character finds the strength to hold his “head up high” and be himself. He reminds us that each and every individual has something very special to offer the world.

In the end, it is not Ugly’s surprise transformation that is the most remarkable. The more significant shift occurs within his community. When Ugly makes the decision to return to his family who rejected him and the poultry who picked on him, he opens the door for reconciliation and forgiveness. By enthusiastically accepting him in the end, they dedicate themselves to celebrating differences. With Ugly’s return, they find strength through individuality rather than division.

I’m always impressed with the teamwork and community mentality from the directors, students and thespian parents. Many junior high students are new to the stage but we see each and every single member of the cast and crew embrace their unique role – playing their part to the best of their ability. You will feel uplifted and inspired by their performance, and I hope you will celebrate and encourage the ways in which each of us is “different” and unique. (Click here for the full photo gallery.)


Break a leg, cast + crew! Once again, we are amazed by the hard work and dedication of the Jenison Thespians and can’t wait to see your latest production! You can get your tickets for this weekend here!


Introducing the Jenison Junior High Theatre Directors


Carol Johnson (Choreographer), Julie Oosterink (Director) and Sarah Hazel (Music Director)

Carol Johnson is Director of Orchestras at Jenison Junior High, and loves being a part of the Jenison theatre program. Over the past seventeen years, she has served on the director team for over a dozen of Junior High and High School musicals as choreographer, vocal director, pit orchestra director, elementary director, pianist, and violinist. She also helps direct a youth musical each summer at her church. Starting in early childhood, she loved spending countless hours on stage as a dancer, instrumentalist, vocalist, and performer in many musical theater productions in her hometown.

Although, this is Julie Oosterink’s first year directing the JJHS Musical, she is no stranger to the stage or the Jenison Theatre program. As a Jenison student she studied theatre through electives, participated in the props crew and also sang and dance in the high school musicals. She found a love for directing during Festival of Plays. In 2018, she joined the JHS staff as an English Language Arts team member. She is thrilled to join the JJHS theatrical team this year and looks forward to celebrating the magic of theatre with Jenison students as they share their talents with our community.

Sarah Hazel is also a proud Jenison alumni, who graduated from JPS in 2011. Her love of theater began at a young age performing in musical productions at church. In high school, Sarah found her niche in the theater program both on and off stage. Sarah earned her Music Education degree at Western Michigan University and is now a full-time private voice instructor at JPS. She has been working with the Jenison Theatre program since 2016. To be a part of Jenison productions once again, this time as a music director, has been so enjoyable and very nostalgic. She feels very blessed to work with a team of teachers, students, parents, and volunteers that is so passionate about the arts.

Honk, Jr. Performance Photos

Check out the photos to get a peek at a show you don’t want to miss! Click here for the full photo gallery.


Click here for the full photo gallery.

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JJHS presents Seussical the Musical, Jr.

A few weeks ago, the Jenison Junior High Thespians traveled to our elementary schools to give students a sneak peek of what was to come in their show, Seussical the Musical, Jr. While they used limited props and were unable to travel with their amazing set, this is always a fun experience for the actors and audience alike and sparked great excitement.

Since then, the finishing touches have been finalized and the JJHS production officially opens the curtain tonight! Led by Director – Holly Florian, Music Director – Sarah Hazel and Choreography Director – Carol Johnson; this group of dedicated and passionate students (on stage and many hidden behind stage) have demonstrated amazing team work and put their talents to work creating something very special.

The story on stage begins with a small boy, with a big imagination. With assistance from the Cat in the Hat, an inspiring and peculiar story will unfold; transporting viewers into an imaginative, colorful, and playful world. At first glance, Horton is just a jolly and friendly elephant, but soon he exhibits a dedication to his beliefs with inspiring determination. Director, Holly Florian embraces this theme and says: “In a year where young people have committed to making their voices and beliefs heard on a National and International level, Horton’s story has been a reminder of the power of listening carefully, and not being afraid to speak up in the face of injustice.”

136804905aecb19948c2b14793d449147828c32a13680527681ae838fca1bfffc5d630c0f4652fd8This show will be a hit for all ages, as many of us grew up reading Dr. Seuss and his stories remain a classic for students today. Ms. Florian captures the essence of the joy behind this show for her and the students saying, “His stories allow the reader to be transported to a magical world where anything is possible and even the “smallest of smalls” can have a role in making a positive change in the world.”

Treat yourself this weekend and make time to witness this spectacular show! I promise, you will leave your seat inspired to follow in Horton’s footsteps and make the world a better place! Show times are January 24 and 25 at 7:00pm and January 26 and 27 at 2:30pm. Tickets are available here!



Junior High Students Get Some Well Deserved Kudos!


On the evening of Tuesday, May 6 hundreds of families of Junior High students filled the Jenison Center for the Arts to honor and celebrate the accomplishments of the over 500 students receiving honors and special recognition.  Students were obviously excited and parents, obviously proud.


According to Mrs. Breen, Jenison Junior High Vice Principal, this is the most students they have ever had at honors night and being a building of just under 700 students total that is an extra reason to celebrate.  One of the special awards given out was the Principal’s Outstanding Educational Improvement Award which “allows us to recognize kids that might not be in the spotlight all the time but lets us spotlight some of their efforts that they’ve made this year behavior wise, academically, etc.”  Students are nominated by teachers as someone who has really made great strides in a few different areas.  “That’s one of the great things about Jenison Junior High.  We have a feel for everyone that walks through the building, who they are, what their names are, what their background is, a little about their family.  That’s the great thing about the Jenison culture in general.”

Honors were given to students for achievement in the following areas:

  • MEAP Award
  • Principal’s Outstanding Educational Improvement Award
  • Perfect Attendance
  • Honor Roll
  • Presidential Academic Awards
  • Science Olympiad Team
  • Student Council
  • Reading Award
  • Spelling Bee Room Finalists
  • Above and Beyond [awards for Art, Life Skills, Tech, Music + Student Athletics]

The honorees also included 23 eight graders who received the Exemplary Achievement Award which has a two year requirement period.  In order to be chosen for this prestigious award students must do community service, be on the honor roll every marking period and have involvement in a club or team.  The student athletes award winners had to participate in four seasons of a sport, maintain at least a 3.0 GPA, have zero level two disciplinary issues and have all ones and twos work and class conduct marks on their report cards.

A handful of the winners of the Exemplary Achievement Award winners.

A handful of the winners of the Exemplary Achievement Award winners.

“I want to thank all the teachers who’ve impacted the students day in and day out with their care, support and encouragement.  I think that goes for teachers Kindergarten through 7th and 8th grade who have worked with this student.  We have them for two short years but there is a lot that’s been invested.”  — Mrs. Heather Breen, Jenison Junior High Vice Principal

Our teachers are amazing and they are some of the best anywhere because they plan such innovative lessons incorporating technology  and challenging students to think more deeply  and tons of lessons that are engaging  for students and most of all, they make learning fun.   They way they build relationships with students and tell them that they care about them is what makes it all happen.” — Mr. Brett Cataldo, Jenison Junior High Principal


Riley Knaak + Haley Westra [both 7th grade] are all smiles on their big night!

Riley Knaak + Haley Westra [both 7th grade] are all smiles on their big night!

Way to go Junior High students!  Whether you still have one more year or are moving on to the High School we are proud of you and can’t wait to see where you’ll go and who you’ll be!

JJHS Encourages Kids to “Be Nice!”

>> myth:

Teenagers don’t suffer from “real” mental illnesses–they are just moody.

>> fact:

One in five teens has some type of mental health problem in a given year. Ten million children and adolescents suffer from a diagnosable psychiatric disorder. (source)

Statistics like these are sobering and often make us want to look away. No one wants to think about their child becoming depressed –or worse — suicidal. But unfortunately, it’s a reality for many families, and sadly, sometimes it comes as a result of being bullied.

be nice, Jenison Junior High, Jenison Public School, anti-bully, anti-bullying campaign, bully prevention

That’s why this fall, teachers and students are doing more than just telling each other to be nice. They’re living it out. In conjunction with the positive anti-bullying campaign with the same title, Jenison Junior High is teaching seventh and eighth graders the importance of seeing the humanity in everyone — and treating them accordingly.

Funded by the West Michigan Mental Health Foundation, “be nice”…

  • is more than just saying don’t bully.
  • is a strengths-based perspective, and a positive way to minimize bullying. We have learned over the years that just telling someone to stop or don’t is negative and often ignored.
  • is a proactive way to encourage kindness among kids, parents, co-workers, etc.
  • is all-encompassing. It goes further than just an action.  (source)

The idea to incorporate be nice came a year ago through various conversations among staff and after individual teachers began to hear more about the program. Bringing it to the junior high seemed like a logical step:

“Jenison chose to implement the Be Nice program this year with the middle school students as it is a crucial time in their lives where they need feel supported not only by their parents and teachers, but by their peers.  This is the time in their lives where they begin to make important decisions on their future and we want to make sure they are making good healthy choices.  Be Nice is about anti-bullying, but teaches the students more then just “don’t be a bully”.  It teaches students how to stand up for one another and help someone who may be a victim, rather then being a bystander and watching such a hurtful thing happen,” said teacher-advisor, Ms. Rosenberg.

Teacher-advisors Mr. Greenwood, Ms. Rodgers and Ms. Rosenberg are busy planning for an inspiring year which was kicked off by a “be nice” assembly earlier this month (see photos below). In addition, they plan to initiate a “pay it forward” movement of showing kindness to others, then passing along a coin to prompt them to show kindness toward another student. They hope to see compassion and empathy spread through the school.

After “pay it forward,” many activities will student-driven and student-led. “Students get to come up with ideas about how we can BE NICE at Jenison Junior.  The BE NICE leaders meet once a month during lunch, we currently have 71 BE NICE student leaders,” said Ms. Rodgers.

With students involved and interested, Mr. Greenwood is hopeful about the future of the program at the junior high. “Although this year is technically a test year, we are hoping that the actual idea of be nice will continue every year!”

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Be nice guest speaker shares his story.

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Mr. Greenwood addresses the student body

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Junior High Career Showcase Impacts Young Minds and Hungry Bellies

At Jenison Junior High’s Annual Soup Supper and Career Showcase, there was much more than soup being poured out: there was love, too.

Jenison Public Schools, Jenison Junior High, Career Showcase

Each year, the junior high hosts a soup supper in conjunction with its Career Showcase, with all proceeds going to support God’s Kitchen. Over the past ten years, the generous support of our community has raised well over $10,000 for the Grand Rapids’ charity, where a hot noontime meal is served each day, no questions asked.

Jenison Public Schools, Jenison Junior High, Career Showcase

Eighth grader Veronica Howe manned the payment table in the cafeteria last Thursday night, crediting Teen Leadership teacher Judy Williams for getting the soup together and planning an incredible night for the community:

“We’re all assigned jobs and in about 45 minutes we had everything ready — tables covered and bowls and silverware set. This year we also used a GVSU broadcast to share the details of the night, so we have people coming in from all over, not just Jenison.”

Jenison Public Schools, Jenison Junior High, Career Showcase

Art teacher Nate Greenwood stacked bowls from a year’s worth of ceramics classes made especially for this one event, counting the few left for purchase by the time soup service drew to a close:

“In every ceramics class, students know they’ll be making a bowl for the Soup Supper. So even classes that start this spring will create a piece that will be carefully stored away for next March’s event. Even with this planning, we’ve run out of bowls nine of the ten years we’ve done it! And the other year we probably only had three bowls left. It’s a good problem to have.”

Faith Stanton, Macey Faber, and special guest Olivia Cataldo were spotted hard at work in the kitchen. They all agreed that doing something simple, like creating salads, added their own special touch to the night and reminded them that they could help people in the community.

To accompany the meal, guests enjoyed performances by our outstanding junior high band, orchestra, and choir as well.

Jenison Public Schools, Jenison Junior High, Career Showcase

Outside of the cafeteria were several displays and presentations including Science Olympiad, Theatre Club, Roman Sculptures, Tessellations, Photography, Art, and Scrapbook Clubs, Atomic Models, and more.

Jenison Public Schools, Jenison Junior High, Career Showcase

Jenison Public Schools, Jenison Junior High, Career ShowcaseFinally, in different rooms and hallways throughout the building, character education was on display. Students from various 4th hour classes kept a post near each display to collect money that guests used as their “vote” for the best one. 8th grader Cole Bull is seen here (at right) representing the “Integrity” display.

We are so proud of the hard work and time spent planning this wonderful community night! Thank you to all the teachers, staff, and students who went the extra mile to impact young minds and feed hungry bellies at God’s Kitchen this year!

JJHS Leadership Class WOWS Amway with Poverty Challenge

Jenison Junior High School, Jenison Public Schools, Teen Leadership Class, Poverty Challenge, Hand 2 Hand, fighting hunger

Photo courtesy of Angela Nelson, Amway.

Few things in this life are more inspiring that young people using their voices to fight for the voiceless. This January, the Jenison Junior High Teen Leadership Class had the amazing opportunity to do just that when they were invited to present their findings on global, national, and local hunger issues to the Amway Community Relations Team of West Michigan. Their hopes? Securing a $3,000 matching grant to benefit Hand 2 Hand Ministries of Hudsonville.

Mrs. Williams, the teacher and “mentor” of the class, says that the core message of their studies always comes back to servant leadership. So when the opportunity presented itself to give back to an organization already partnering with JPS (Hand 2 Hand), Mrs. Williams jumped at the chance to have her kids learn about food insecurity and chronic hunger.

Jenison Junior High, Teen Leadership Class, Poverty Challenge

Jonah Smith

Jonah Smith was candid in his remarks, “I never really thought about any world problems until I got into this class. Now I think about things like hunger all the time.”

Jenison Junior High, Teen Leadership Class, Poverty Challenge

Nick Nawrocki

Classmate Nick Nawrocki agreed, saying that learning about food banks, bridge cards, WIC, and programs like Feeding America “made things more relevant [to him].”

Working as a team, the class toured Goodwill to get a holistic idea of basic needs in the area. They also learned more about the ministry of Hand 2 Hand, which fills up backpacks of food to discretely send home with undernourished or “food insecure” participating students over each weekend. Teen Leadership students were amazed to learn of the high percentage of Jenison students in need of food assistance.

“Kids our age might know what a food bank is or how to shop at one, which is kind of sad. It seems like they’re losing their childhood — like they’re growing up too soon worrying about where their next meal will come from,” commented Katherine Flessner.

Jenison Junior High, Teen Leadership Class, Poverty Challenge

The Teen Leadership Class shares their experience in the Junior High Media Center.

Jenison Junior High, Teen Leadership Class, Poverty Challenge

Veronica Howe

Veronica Howe described how, after spending weeks gathering data about hunger problems, the class created a PowerPoint and crafted an oral presentation to be presented at Amway with the hopes that they will match the $3,000 Jenison students have already raised for Hand 2 Hand this year. Upon arriving at the plush offices, all agreed that it felt good to be treated as a professional.

“It was cool at this age to be put in this professional environment. Everything was very big and expensive and when we got to our seats there were even gift bags for us!” Nick said.

“When we went to Amway, not only did they listen to us, but they were willing to give feedback. They were really honest and were willing to give pointers and offer constructive thoughts,” added Tabitha Hill.

Jenison Junior High, Teen Leadership Class, Poverty Challenge

Tabitha Hill and Katherine Flessner

“The coolest part of the whole experience was that even if we don’t get the grant, we brought tears to the adults’ eyes because of our passion and what we shared with them. One person even made a personal donation to our cause!” said Faith Stanton.

Jenison Junior High, Teen Leadership Class, Poverty Challenge

Faith Stanton

Mrs. Williams watched this all unfold with a smile that said it all. Her desire to help shape the next generation of concerned, compassionate, and ethical leaders is obvious.

“I was merely a facilitator, coordinator and vehicle for these students to realize that they do and will impact the future.  I rest easily at night knowing that this group of young people will be leading our way some day. I do want to give HUGE amounts of appreciation to Michelle Meulendyk, David Byrne, Tom TenBrink, Brett Cataldo and Kristy Rogalla for their help in coordinating this project and belief in the abilities of 8th graders. Thank you!”

Jenison Male Chorus Invited To State Performance

Erasmus once said, “Concealed talent brings no reputation.”

If this is so, then the reverse must also be true. And next weekend, Mr. Steven Waters, Mr. Les Rowsey, and the Jenison Male Chorus will have the opportunity to prove it in front of hundreds of the brightest minds in music education.

Jenison Junior High, Mr. Steven Waters, Mr. Les Rowsey, Michigan Music Conference

(above) The JPS Male Chorus practices their performance pieces.

Jenison Junior High, Mr. Steven Waters, Mr. Les Rowsey, Michigan Music Conference

(above) For these students, practice makes perfect!

Each January, music teachers from around the state converge on Grand Rapids to attend break-out sessions, learn together, and listen to selected school choral performances. Doing so as a group helps to set and maintain a standard for excellence in music education while reaffirming philosophical standpoints in their field.

Due to their history of exemplary performances and overall reputation for talent and skill, the Michigan Music Conference has foregone the typical application process for the Jenison group and has invited the group to perform at next week’s meeting in Grand Rapids. Under normal circumstances, groups desiring to perform are required to submit an application and audio recording in order to be considered, but in this case, the Chorus’ reputation has garnered acceptance on its own.

Jenison Choirs at all levels have applied, submitted recordings, and have been accepted several times over the past three decades, however the opportunity to perform without going through this process is extremely rare. The male chorus group will be collaborating next week Friday, January 18, with Mr. Lon Beery, a conference coordinator, composer, arranger, and educator who will also present around the topic of changing male voices. His session is entitled, “Working with Middle School Men,” and will take place in the International Ballroom at the J.W. Marriott Hotel at 9:30 a.m.

We send hearty congratulations to Mr. Waters, Mr. Rowsey, their accompanists, and the outstanding group of young men who will so proudly represent Jenison Junior High and High School at the Michigan Music Conference!

Best of luck!

Junior High East Coast Trip a Success!

Mr. Fales holds Jenison’s answer to the famous “I (heart) NY” shirts found throughout Manhattan. Students wore these to be easily spotted while in the city.

I think we’d all agree that reading about something in a book can open our minds to history and truth, just as seeing pictures on a page can convey lessons not easily captured in words.

But actually walking the cobblestone streets of Philadelphia once traversed by Benjamin Franklin or strolling through Minute Men National Park is a different kind of education entirely.

The past that was once trapped in a 2D reality suddenly leaps from being merely a textbook concept and becomes surprisingly real:

Battlefields in Gettysburg become more than grass and dirt and shadows; they are now the hallowed grounds that cradle the souls of so many.

Fenway Park becomes more than a collection of bleachers. In fact, it still echoes with the crack of Dick Radatz’ bat.

The 9/11 Memorial in New York City is a silent capsule amidst honking taxis and the clamor of life in Manhattan. It becomes more than a symbol. It is sacred.

This June, 107 Jenison Junior High students stepped through time by joining the annual East Coast Trip organized by Mr. Kevin Fales. This group, JJHS’ largest in their five years of traveling, boarded three motorcoaches on June 8 and dove headlong into a seven-day trek that would take them to places such as:

  • Niagara Falls
  • Minute Men National Park
  • Boston, Massachusetts
  • Fenway Park
  • New York City (Times Square, Central Park, Rockefeller Center)
  • Philadelphia (Nat’l Constitution Center, Independence Hall, Liberty Bell)
  • Gettysburg (including an evening Ghost Walk)
  • Hershey Park

Mr. Fales shared that it’s “…a cool experience to be able to take kids to the historical places that we’ve been studying all year; to actually be able to see the Declaration of Independence or walk the grounds at Gettysburg is so awesome.”

Students on the trip pay a flat fee to Countryside Tours which covers the cost of the entire trip, all hotels, and all food (except for two meals). Students are left to cover only the souvenirs they may wish to purchase.

Of course the trip can’t be quantified as easily as assigning a price tag and discussing details like hotels and food. To the kids on the buses that drove East, there were moments and memories that won’t register on an itinerary or be reflected in a price tag, like when a student looked at Mr. Fales (while in Canada) and said,

“I can’t believe I am in another country; I have never left Michigan.”


Those are the moments when eyes are opened and lives are changed.


Hearts bloom and school is never the same again.

Students at Niagara Falls (all trip photo courtesy of Mr. Fales)

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Thank you to Mr. Kevin Fales for his hours of dedicated planning and for spearheading this wonderful trip! We’re proud to have Jenison represented in some of our nation’s more historic locations!